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Braz J Med Biol Res. 2012 Jul;45(7):601-9. Epub 2012 May 10.

Paradoxical effect of a pequi oil-rich diet on the development of atherosclerosis: balance between antioxidant and hyperlipidemic properties.

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  • 1Departamento de Bioquímica e Imunologia, Instituto de Ciências Biológicas, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, MG, Brasil.


Pequi is the fruit of Caryocar brasiliense and its oil has a high concentration of monounsaturated and saturated fatty acids, which are anti- and pro-atherogenic agents, respectively, and of carotenoids, which give it antioxidant properties. Our objective was to study the effect of the intake of a cholesterol-rich diet supplemented with pequi oil, compared to the same diet containing soybean oil, on atherosclerosis development, and oxidative stress in atherosclerosis-susceptible LDL receptor-deficient mice (LDLr(-/-), C57BL/6-background). Female mice were fed a cholesterol-rich diet containing 7% soybean oil (Soybean group, N = 12) or 7% pequi oil (Pequi group, N = 12) for 6 weeks. The Pequi group presented a more atherogenic lipid profile and more advanced atherosclerotic lesions in the aortic root compared to the Soybean group. However, the Pequi group presented a less advanced lesion in the aorta than the Soybean group and showed lower lipid peroxidation (Soybean group: 50.2 ± 7.1; Pequi group: 30.0 ± 4.8 µmol MDA/mg protein) and anti-oxidized LDL autoantibodies (Soybean group: 35.7 ± 9.4; Pequi group: 15.6 ± 3.7 arbitrary units). Peritoneal macrophages from the Pequi group stimulated with zymosan showed a reduction in the release of reactive oxygen species compared to the Soybean group. Our data suggest that a pequi oil-rich diet slows atherogenesis in the initial stages, possibly due to its antioxidant activity. However, the increase of serum cholesterol induces a more prominent LDL migration toward the intimae of arteries, increasing the advanced atherosclerotic plaque. In conclusion, pequi oil associated with an atherogenic diet worsens the lipid profile and accelerates the formation of advanced atherosclerotic lesions despite its antioxidant action.

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